It is rather fitting that the design for London Dock was fuelled by tea.
Once a bustling import point for the beverage, giraffes, elephants, diamonds and much more the 15 acre site is now being transformed by St George into a development of 1,800 homes.
New International’s buildings, where Piers Morgan edited redtops, have been razed to the ground and work is well underway on the 10-year project.
The man who has masterminded the transformation is Andrew Taylor of east London architects Patel Taylor who said his philosophy is “tea and creating spaces”.
“You have to spend a lot of timing looking as an architect,” said the graduate of Bartlett at University College London.
“And a lot of time mulling it over. I do my best thinking when I wake up at 4.30am in the morning. Then I jump out of bed at 6am and tap all my thoughts into my phone.
“Then I go to Exmouth Market for 7.30am and drink tea til 9.15am doing all my doodling and sketching and then I go into the office.”
But instead of drawing buildings, when they won the contract for London Dock in 2012 he began by “rendering the void”.
“What’s more important for me are the public spaces and how you see them three dimensionally. They are not a bit of leftover space. That’s where we went wrong in the 1960s.
“This huge site severed the whole of Wapping for the last 200 years so this project is about reconnecting it back together. That is critical.”
“I first thought about how to move people through the site.”
As a result more than half of the site is open space, made up of market gardens between the buildings, a landscaped promenade along the waterfront, and several squares, including the centrepiece jumping fountain filled Gauging Square. It was inspired by the the Miroir d’eau in Bordeaux – the word’s largest reflecting pool- where Andrew spent New Year’s Eve 2012.
The 54-year-old said travel was fundamental to his job and he aimed to go away for a weekend at least once a month.
“Cities are made by public spaces. If you go on holiday that is what you remember,” he said. “St Mark’s Square in Venice for example.
“Even though there is movement of technology, that affects production of places but not places and spaces themselves. They are timeless.
“I spend my whole life wandering around cities, either new developments in London or elsewhere, thinking and daydreaming.”
His love of architecture began aged four when his dad used to take him on trips around the castle in north Wales where he grew up.
And in 1989 he partnered up with Pankaj Patel, who was raised by missionaries in Tanzania.
“We had very different upbringings, never went to public school or were part of the scene,” said Andrew.
“You have to be who you are and where you come from is part of that.”
Echoing this sentiment they took the design and footprint for the London Dock buildings from the existing warehouse on the site which had stacks of buildings in front of it.
They are being fully designed and built in phases from east to west with one and two almost complete.
The firm is now finalising designs for Gauging Square, phase three and the makeover of the warehouse which is earmarked as a home to independent traders.
“Every building you do is really about the setting, that gives you the cues for how to shape it,” said Andrew.
“This is an incredibly fascinating piece of London with an historic legacy.
“And this project is far greater than the sum of it’s parts by a long way, compared to anything we have worked on before.”
Patel Taylor’s first big project was Putney Wharf Tower for St George 20 years ago and they have gone on to design projects such as Thames Barrier Park in Docklands, Stephenson Street in West Ham and White City.
“Masterplanning is sort of our forte,” said Andrew.
“It’s very easy to make an individual building in a street but the success of cities is the connections and scale of public spaces and finding the right uses to go in them.
“If it is a bit barren it’s no fun.
“London Dock is successful because is a big piece but with sub-characters within it.”
Keep up to date with all our articles on Facebook